Rangers win bidding war for NCAA star Hayes

Team USA's Kevin Hayes, right, attempts to score against Belarus at the Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk, May 2014. (AP/Darko Bandic)

College hockey star Kevin Hayes agreed to a deal with the New York Rangers Wednesday.

With the National Hockey League’s free agent market whittled down to potential retirees, backup goalies and past-their-prime depth players, Hayes instantly became a hot commodity last week when he failed to reach a contract agreement with the club that drafted him, the Chicago Blackhawks, by the Aug. 15 deadline.

Chicago’s first-round pick (24th overall) in the 2010 NHL Draft spent four seasons with Boston College, but since Hayes and the ‘Hawks couldn’t come to terms, general manager Stan Bowman will receive a compensatory second-round draft pick (54th overall) in 2015.

The 22-year-old Hayes — a prospect with a rocket shot and penchant for back-checking — received overtures from a handful of NHL clubs.

Hayes and his agent spent Sunday narrowing the list of interested clubs and spoke to handful of them Monday, according to The Providence Journal‘s Mark Divver.

A Boston native, Hayes hails from a family with deep NHL roots. Kevin’s older brother, Jimmy Hayes, is a winger with the Florida Panthers. Two of his cousins, Keith Tkachuk and Tom Fitzgerald, had long pro careers.

As a senior, Hayes scored an impressive 27 goals and 38 assists in 40 games last season for Boston College and was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

The teams rumoured to be interested in signing Hayes also included the Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins and his hometown Bruins.